#1 Publically available information is not valuable to an identity thief.
If I was an identity thief I’d start with the phone book. All information about you is of value to an identity thief. The bad guy gathers as much intelligence about you as possible. Once they get enough data to become you they are off and running. The breadcrumbs we leave behind and the information we post is all used to help them gather a complete profile.
#2 Shredding will protect me.
Shredding will keep some of your data out of the hands of a dumpster diver. But when your information is hacked because someone like your bank was hacked or your mortgage broker threw it away, you are vulnerable. While you should still shred, you should also invest in identity theft protection and a credit freeze.
#3 I don’t use the Internet, I pay in cash, my credit stinks, so I am safe.
Wrongo bongo. While you may not use the internet, others that have your information in their internet connected databases make it vulnerable. Using credit cards doesn’t mean your identity is at risk or using cash means you are any less at risk. Credit card fraud isn’t identity theft. It’s credit card fraud. Just call the credit cards issuing bank and refute the charges within 60 days and you are fine. Bad credit just means not all lenders will grant you credit. Everyone with a SSN, a pulse and even some who are dead are vulnerable.
#4 My privacy settings in social media sites are locked down, so I am safe.
Negative. The mere fact you are sharing personal identifying information of any kind with anyone online means you are at risk. Anyone who you are connected to is a potential leak, whether you know them or not. If you tell a secret to one person, you are vulnerable. If you tell it to 250 people, the secret is out. Never share information in social media that could be used to crack the code of a password reset.
#5 Shopping or banking online isn’t secure.
It all depends. More than likely the etailer or bank where you do business is more secure than your PC. It is often the consumer who is the path of least resistance to fraud. As long as your PC is secured with updated antivirus and spyware protection then you should be fine. Always look for httpS:// in the address bar. The “S” means it’s a more secure site.
Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Sourcepresenting 20 slides on identity theft at 20 seconds each to the National Speakers Association. Disclosures.